Vinnies calls for reforms to tenancy laws

Jack de Groot, CEO St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, welcomes the NSW Opposition’s commitment to give all tenants a fair go by ending no-fault evictions and limiting rent increases.

“Housing, like health and education, is a human right. We all need a home to live in dignity and we all need stability,” said Mr de Groot.

“We know that the vast majority of the people who come to Vinnies do not own their homes, they rent. It is time for our laws to catch up with the reality of a tough housing market and protect the rights of tenants.”

The Society also welcomes the Opposition’s commitment to developing templates for five-year tenancies to give tenants and landlords security of housing, similar to the Victorian Government.

“Another change the ALP has included which we support is the limitation of rent increases to only once a year.”

The current Residential Tenancies Act provides very limited protection to renters. Landlords can evict their tenants without having to give any reason for it and they can increase rents very easily. While a large number of landlords act responsibly, some use their position of power against their tenants.

Charlotte, a young woman, rented a property for six years. At first it was managed by a real estate agent but eventually the owner took over managing the property himself.

“It became a nightmare,” said Charlotte. “First, he put the rent up without written notice. I challenged him on it although I continued to pay rent and the increase until I could confirm with the Marrickville Legal Centre that this was not permitted. 

“They informed him that he in fact owed us money, and that we would not need to pay rent for a few weeks. But once that time was up, he gave us notice to quit on no grounds, so we had to leave.”

Mr de Groot stressed the need to remove no-fault evictions: “Moving is highly disruptive, particularly if it is not by choice. Relocation may mean finding new schools, leaving existing support networks, and becoming isolated.

“There must be a valid reason to evict a tenant, like if they want to move back into their property. The landlord’s ability to evict tenants without any explanation places tenants in a position of vulnerability. A tenant feeling at risk may not ask for repairs to be undertaken. The insecurity of tenants is also aligned with the lack of affordable housing stock – there is nowhere for them to go.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW is the member of a coalition of 80 community organisations, unions and faith-based organisations who support the Tenants Union’s campaign to make renting fair and ensure renters in NSW are protected against unfair evictions.

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